System 800xA v6 is Even More About Control

Version 6 of System 800xA process control system offers a host of new capabilities, integrates with more application areas, and provides more useful functions for users.

By Jim Montague

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Some Swiss Army knives just get better—to the point where it seems they can go anywhere and accomplish almost anything.

System 800xA (Extended Automation) is one of these universally helpful tools; and its new version 6 (v6) is continuing this tradition by helping users with many new and improved features via new avenues to help people, equipment and systems collaborate more effectively. The new version is available for new projects now and will be available for upgrades starting in May.

"Anything you can bring into System 800xA is available to any and all applications and services," explained Roy Tanner, ABB's global product marketing manager for 800xA. "Users can call up devices and data from multiple suppliers and show information from all kinds of applications at the same time, and once it's there it's accessible by everyone."

Tanner presented "System 800xA v6 Overview and Update" on the second day of ABB Automation & Power World at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

During its 10 years of existence and continual improvement, System 800xA generally has been defined as an integration platform with seamless connectivity to plant systems, applications, control systems and fieldbus technologies. It allows for simultaneous execution of various automation strategies and has pre-integrated, common-value-added applications and services.

"System 800xA removes barriers and promotes collaborative process automation," said Tanner. "But, there are always new challenges. A colleague once asked if System 800xA had everything it needed, but there are always new protocols, standards and other requirements to address."

For instance, in its just prior v5.1 release the software added feature packs that allowed users to pick the capabilities they needed most to grow their applications as desired. It also incorporated advanced process control (APC) and data handling capabilities, and Tanner reported v6 is further extending these advances. And, because research indicates that about half of all automation systems now have unsupported operating systems, System 800xA performs advanced access control and whitelisting to ensure only authorized programs are running on users' systems. "Version 6 is all about controlling security, controlling costs and controlling productivity," added Tanner. "It's the most secure system available without compromising functionality."

As its most basic, System 800xA v6 is based on Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2; performs improved cybersecurity robustness testing; employs Windows User Account Control (UAC); executes digital system code signing of applications; and has faster access to approved Microsoft security updates and antivirus definition files.

Improved features in System 800xA v6 include better:

  • Overall performance;
  • Cybersecurity;
  • Trends and alarm lists;
  • S+/Harmony connectivity server;
  • Diagram editor and function designer;
  • ProfiNet and Modbus communications;
  • AC 800M soft controller; and
  • Batch management.

New features in System 800xA v6 include:

  • Automation network components;
  • "Read-only" 800xA clients;
  • PG2 "presentation" graphic elements;
  • Foundation fieldbus LD800 networking;
  • Device library wizard (DLW) to simplify installation and administration;
  • UMC100 hardware library; and
  • New delivery media, installer and licensing.

Tanner added that this enhanced delivery media for System 800xA consists of sending the software on secure USB media, which makes it easier to handle and transport. Its contents are digitally signed by ABB; it behaves like a CD ROM drive when inserted; and it supports centralized installation.

"This centralized installation tool on one USB drive makes Version 6 much easier to rollout because it has 80% fewer manual steps," Tanner said. "Companion tools that help with common upgrade issues include AC800M fingerprint, compiler output file helper and start values analyzer. Installation consists of three steps—prepare nodes, assign functionality and deploy functionality. Users also can add or replace nodes and do backups of installation settings. Consistent installations equals easier administration, upgrades and lower total cost of ownership."

Likewise, System 800xA v6 has a "software function" based deployment principle, which make use of performance improvements and multi-core hardware; allow one operating system to run multiple functions; perform other service tasks and applications; and reduce maintenance hours by 80%.

""There's been a big push for virtualization which System 800xa excels at and has for years, but with virtualization you can reduce the number of physical machines however the number of operating systems usually remains the same," Tanner added.  "But now we can reduce the number of nodes AND operating systems using just the power that's available in today's multi-core machines. For example, a typical 2-3000 IO system with batch, asset optimization, 8 operator clients and 2 engineering clients can go from requiring over 12 servers to around four!"

In addition, System 800xA v6 offers full support for all of ABB’s Harmony and Symphony Plus hardware while streamlining connectivity and engineering.

System 800xA is further supported by ABB's new Foundation fieldbus Ex HSE linking device with decentralized mounting in Zone 2, Division 2 applications, which reduces H1 cables and installation costs by 80%. Finally, ABB is also introducing 800xA Networks wired managed and unmanaged switches, which are rack and rail mountable, tested and maintained by ABB and pre-configured with available asset monitors. These wired switches will be joined by wireless mesh routers after System 800xA v6 completes its launch in June. 

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